Monday, March 14, 2016

Montessori Monday: Imitation

Until around 6 years of age, children have what Montessori called "The Absorbent Mind," meaning that they can learn through absorbing knowledge from their surroundings. To illustrate the powers of the absorbent mind, Montessori points out that "The only language we ever learn perfectly is the one we learn in babyhood, when no one can teach us anything!" This is one of the most magical things about childhood neurological development. It is also one of the most terrifying aspects because being the parent, teacher or caretaker of little children, they show us exactly what we're like through their natural tendency to imitate us. It can be quite illuminating.

During the Montessori training, we were taught to make our movement, volume levels and so on those that we'd like to see from the children. We learned to walk slowly and deliberately, use a quiet voice and eliminate fidgety gestures we weren't even really aware of. One teacher I know recounted seeing children in her class push repeatedly up the bridge of their noses with their middle finger. She was wondering what was going on with all these kids?! Did they all have the same itch or was it some sort of non-verbal message she wasn't privy to? Nope. It was something they'd seen her do a million times when she pushed her glasses up. It didn't matter to them that they didn't have glasses; seeing her do it, they absorbed it and did it, too! Magical, and a bit crazy, right?
Lately we're seeing an explosion of imitation from Coco and Theo. The other night, Theo grabbed his toothbrush and was brushing his teeth. Then he stopped for a second, leaned forward to some imaginary sink and made a tiny raspberry with his lips. "Did you see that?!" I exclaimed to J, "He's spitting just like Coco does!" This isn't something we're doing with Theo yet because we didn't realize he was ready, but maybe he is! And, of course, he is a complete pro with the phone. He pushes a bunch of buttons, or just the button on our iPhones, then throws it up to his ear and exclaims, "Hello!" then cruises around chattering into it. Wow.
Coco's imitation is becoming more and more refined. She will push Theo in at the table, she'll model really carefully for him how to lift something or pour milk. And then there's her doll "Big Baby". Big Baby has been around for years and Coco has always loved her. But now she's really starting to mother her. She asks her before bed if she'd like to sleep in her bed or in bed with Coco. She tucks her in, she feeds her. The other day she requested little diapers so she could change Big Baby. It is so ridiculously cute. And evolutionary science shows that mothering is all learned and not instinctual, so this is exactly what she's supposed to be doing.
Saturday, when we went to the St. Patrick's Day parade, she had Big Baby in her Ergo Baby for dolls. It kind of blows me away. Sometimes her tone of voice makes me cringe, because I know it's what I sound like when I'm annoyed or angry. But seeing her care for Big Baby is one of the times it makes me insanely proud of what I'm teaching her when I don't realize I'm teaching her. What have your children shown you through imitation? Was a nice surprise, or a less than pleasant revelation? ;)

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